The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy #BookReview #Wartime Paris

Paris, 1940. With the city occupied by the Nazis, three young seamstresses go about their normal lives as best they can. But all three are hiding secrets. War-scarred Mireille is fighting with the Resistance; Claire has been seduced by a German officer; and Vivienne’s involvement is something she can’t reveal to either of them.

Two generations later, Claire’s English granddaughter Harriet arrives in Paris, rootless and adrift, desperate to find a connection with her past. Living and working in the same building on the Rue Cardinale, she learns the truth about her grandmother—and herself—and unravels a family history that is darker and more painful than she ever imagined.

In wartime, the three seamstresses face impossible choices when their secret activities put them in grave danger. Brought together by loyalty, threatened by betrayal, can they survive history’s darkest era without being torn apart?

My Review

I found myself reading this moving story on Holocaust Memorial Day which made the day even more significant for me. The three 1940s heroines of this story are not Jewish but they are actively involved with the same suffering and do their best to defeat the Nazis. Initially they are three girls who enjoy their work as seamstresses in an esteemed fashion house and share a flat above their work, but each have secrets.

We learn about their lives through Harriet, granddaughter of Claire, who has managed to find an internship with a PR agency in the same building where they had lived and worked. Harriet is an unhappy young woman who believes she may suffer from genetic inherited trauma. I felt this aspect was overemphasised at the expense of her part of the story and her relationships were unconvincing but I was gripped by the wartime story in which we were able to see the development of Claire and Mireille into determined resistance workers despite their youth. There is great sadness in the tale of the three girls, but their heroism is both impressive and convincing. A very worthwhile and informative book.

The Dressmaker’s Gift on Amazon UK

Fiona Valpy is a bestselling author, whose books have been translated into more than twenty different languages worldwide.

She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of World War II. Her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place. She spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.


Published by lizannelloyd

Love history, reading, researching and writing. Articles published in My Family History and other genealogy magazines.

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